Antique book of watercolours by John Marshall-West. Although lacking inscription or any signature, this sketchbook is unmistakably the work of John William Henry Marshll-West and has his typical date marks (between 1886 and 1895) written in various places throughout the book. It contains 17 principal watercolours of leafy English river scenes, a distant hilltop castle, possibly Edinburgh, paintings from travels in Venice, the pyramids in Egypt and extraordinary sunsets in the Red Sea and Abu Ail in the Yemen. There are several watercolour sketches as preparation for the principal paintings, as well as extensive reference to semaphore flags and their corresponding letters. Two pages are devoted to the dilution of colour and, in the painter’s handwriting is the little ditty, ‘If a summer warmth you want or an Oriental glow, you must mix some Yellow Ocre (sic) with Brown Madder – don’t y’a (sic) know.’
Book Condition: Good. Black leather spine worn to head and tail and black cloth boards worn to corners. Spine loose. Measures 9 x 6 inches. Paintbrush/pencil holder to upper edge of bottom board.
John William Henry Marshall-West 1858 – 1928
Born in Melbourne, Australia, the son of a Gentleman, John West moved back to the UK in 1863. He was schooled in London and joined the 13th Light Infantry, Prince Albert’s Somersetshire Regiment thereafter. Based in Devonport, his first overseas posting, as Lieutenant, was in the Colony of Natal in South Eastern Africa until 1879. Pencil drawings in his earliest sketchpad appear to show evidence of his time with the Zulu people. As he rose through the ranks to Captain in the following years, he was to become a highly respected military instructor in London, travelling extensively both privately and with the army. As Lieutenant Colonel, he received the South Africa Medal with the Cape Colony clasp following his active service between 1899 and 1902 in the second Boer War.
Born West, he was later to attach his mother’s maiden name – Marshall - to his own, becoming Marshall-West at some point in the mid 1890s. Occupying significant social and military status, John West married Julia, the widow of Colonel Hugh Millett, in 1887. His only child, Evelyn Lovett, was born 2 years later and he adopted the daughter of his wife, Edith Maude Millett, who was to become a highly celebrated actress in the last decade of the 19th century. John William Henry Marshall-West died in 1928 in Surrey.
Although he was not trained as an artist, his work shows great mastery of watercolour and the use and mixing of colour. He demonstrates significant competence at the impression of space, movement and perspective and depicts water and sky with considerable realism. Buildings and sailing boats are executed with architectural and graphic accuracy and his depiction of characters appears to capture personality and spirit. He came from an artistic background, his mother being a capable artist and his aunt, Emily Mary Marshall, producing considerable watercolours of significant merit. His brother, Algernon Edward West, was to pursue an education at Art College in London at the age of 25.
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